Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movies on the Common 2011 (Worcester, MA)

Well, once again I've managed to miss an opportunity to blog about an upcoming event (see the three-part look back on the 2010 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama that I finally got around to writing about nine months later). A group called Worcester Film Works is putting on a series of free movie screenings on the Worcester (MA) Common this summer. The first show was tonight (in fact, it's still probably going on as I start this blog). While it's too late to let people know about tonight's show, the good news is that this is going to be a three-movie series. This means that anyone who reads this and might be interested in attending one of these shows has two more opportunities to do so!

I only recently heard about the 2011 Movies on the Common series, and apparently it was only recently organized by the folks at Worcester Film Works. From talking to members of the group tonight this is something they've been wanting to make happen for a while now. For something only recently put together it was a very nice first effort. The weather tonight (which WFW obviously has no control over) was just about perfect--a warm evening that turned into a pleasantly cool night, no humidity, no precipitation. They couldn't have asked Mother Nature for a better night to start their series.

We showed up around 7:00, with the show scheduled to start at dusk (approximately 8:30). The audience was modest but enthusiastic when we arrived. Over the next hour-an-a-half the crowd swelled to a nice size--especially for a first-time event. I'm not good at estimating crowd numbers, but there were easily a hundred people present by the time the movie started. A couple vendors were present too: Sweet Sister Ice Cream was there with their ice cream truck, and Main Street's Theatre Cafe was there with various sandwiches for sale. We got ice cream for The Monsters, but didn't indulge in the sandwiches this time (though I'm sure they were tasty). Worcester Film Works had a table set up too. They had a popcorn machine there to sell popcorn to the viewing audience. Unfortunately, in what must have been the worst glitch of the first night, the popcorn machine didn't work. Through quick thinking they were able to solve the problem: they ran out, bought a bunch of bags of Smart Food Popcorn and filled the machine with that! Just before the movie started paper bags of Smart Food were selling for a buck apiece. You can't have a movie without popcorn after all!

As for the movie, tonight's feature was "Grease" (1978), which was a nice choice. Not only is it a classic, crowd-pleasing movie that I actually remember watching at the drive-in when it first came out, but it also goes very nicely with this weekend's big annual New England Summer Nationals car show in Worcester which starts tomorrow (July 1, 2011). I was expecting one of those inflatable movie screens to be set up, but was pleasantly surprised to instead see a huge screen set up right behind City Hall. I'm also not good at estimating screen sizes, but it was BIG (see photos below). There were colored lights running up both sides of the screen and the movie was projected from behind. It was a very nice set-up. I suppose that if I had to pick something to gripe about, it would be that the projector being behind the screen meant that there was a circle of bright light from it visible onscreen during the feature. While this wasn't ideal, it was actually less distracting than one might expect. I guess that since it's so blatantly right in your field of view your brain kind of tunes it out. Every once in a while you'd remember it was there when the action of the movie was centered where the light was, but in general it wasn't much of a nuisance at all. On the plus side, the projector being behind the screen also meant that the entire area in front of the screen was prime viewing area, since no projecting equipment was set up there. The picture quality itself was nice once it became dark enough, and the sound was loud and clear. Classic rock was blasting through the speakers before the movie.

The show started with a welcome from a Worcester radio personality and a couple Charlie Chaplin shorts before it was really dark enough for the movie. Then, just as darkness was falling in earnest, "Grease" started up. The movie itself needs no description. We had to leave early--after the "Greased Lightning" number--so we could get The Little Monsters home and put them to bed, but I can only imagine that the rest of the show went smoothly.

Worcester Film Works wanted to pick some very popular mainstream movies that would bring the crowds in for this first season as they try to build interest in the series. "Grease" seems a perfect match for this formula. As for the rest of the series, it runs on the last Thursday night of the month in July and August. After the June 30 showing of "Grease" there are still two more movies coming up before the summer ends: "Back to the Future" (1985) on Thursday, July 28 and "Spaceballs" (1987) on Thursday, August 25. In the case of a rainout, the movies will be run on the following Thursday. Hopefully the show will be successful enough that it will be able to continue for many more years. If tonight's turnout is any indication, it should be a good summer for Movies on the Common. I think the vast majority of the good-sized crowd must have had a fine time. As word of mouth spreads and Worcester Film Works and other media outlets (hopefully) get the word out, I'd expect the audience to grow even larger. See Worcester Film Works for up-to-the-minute updates about the series.

They say that a picture says a thousand words, so why don't we look at some photos from tonight's show?

Entering the Common, we passed by the famous "Turtle Boy" statue (note the screen in the background)

The Little Monster makes her choice at Sweet Sister's ice cream truck

The Worcester Film Works crew manning their table (and their malfunctioning popcorn machine)

The Wife and The Little Monsters give you an idea of the sheer size of the screen

The Little Monster gives you an idea of the sheer messiness of her popsicle

The Little Monster and The Tiny Creature enjoy creating an unholy mess (they actually didn't do too bad, surprisingly)

The Little Monster shows off her sugar-stained mouth while waiting for the show to begin...

...while The Creature shows off her Mommy's sunglasses

A look at the projector behind the screen

A couple members of Worcester FilmWorks survey the scene

As the sun sets the crowd swells

Closeup view of one of the Charlie Chaplin shorts that started the show

The Little Monster getting her first look at Charlie Chaplin!

The second Chaplin short

And finally, wait for it...

Our feature presentation: GREASE!

The Wife and The Little Monster enjoy some Smart Food

And so does The Creature

A last look at the scene as the sky continues to darken

And finally, here's a little bit of video footage from tonight. It starts off with The Little Monsters dancing to Led Zeppelin before the show, continues with part of the introduction and then a few quick clips of the movie itself as it looked on the big screen behind City Hall.

See you on July 28 for "Back to the Future"!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My All-Time Favorite Photo Booth Series

Back in August of 2007 I took The Little Monster to our local mall and saw one of those booths that takes photographs and prints them in a little strip. I took her into the booth and we came out with the following series of four photos. A number of things make this particular strip my favorite one of all time. First of all, it was The Little Monster's very first time in one of these booths. Second, because of the fact that it was her first experience in one you can really see the uncertainty on her face. Her expressions explicitly tell the story of what's going on in her mind during the experience. I have been in these things a number of times and it simply didn't occur to me--until I saw the results--that this was a whole new and unknown experience for The Monster.

Another thing that makes this series of photos special for me is the fact that The Little Monster was three months shy of turning two in this strip. At present she is only a few months shy of her sixth birthday. It's amazing to see how much she has changed over the past four years. My Little Monster is growing up...

Here's the photo strip:

And now let's take a look at each photo individually and try to decipher exactly what was going through The Little Monster's little head during each one. Remember that once the process started (the money was deposited and the camera started clicking) it just continued until all four photos were taken. Of course that's a pretty obvious fact, but an important one to keep in mind when realizing that this was all new and unexplored territory for The Little Monster!

I remember telling her to look into the mirror and smile. Of course, she didn't know exactly what she was supposed to be looking at, and you can sort-of see the uncertainty in her eyes. She's not scared or anything, just a bit unsure. "Okay, I'm looking, but just what am I supposed to be looking at?" I love this photo because I know that it's her very last moment of relative calm and comfort for the next thirty seconds or so. It's funny how I just kind of assumed that she'd automatically know just what to do and what to expect out of our little visit to this small booth.

Confusion starts to set in. Remember that she wasn't really expecting the sudden flash that accompanied the click of the camera. I think I told her that a photo was about to be taken, but probably didn't properly prepare her for the flash. She seems to be thinking: "What the heck was that?!?". She obviously was not prepared for this second photo in any way.

By the third photo The Little Monster is starting to realize what's going on--every few seconds there is going to be a sudden, bright flash. As you can see, she's attempting to look at the correct spot, but can not keep from squinting as she prepares herself for another flash. "Daddy seems to think this pretty normal, but why are we sitting in this little room being bombarded by flashes of light?"

And now, panic starts to set in. It appears that the poor Monster is making a brave attempt to smile, but the shock and horror in her eyes belies her true emotions. Of course, that "smile" might have actually been the beginning of an expression of terror. I don't know how bad this would have gotten if there were any more than four photographs taken. Would she have been permanently scarred emotionally if there had been five, six, seven or eight photos taken instead? Thankfully (and mercifully for her) it stopped after four and we were able to exit the booth and pick up the strip a few moments later. Hopefully seeing the fruits of our labor gave her frightened little psyche some solace and peace.

So there you have it. In general, photographs are just a little bit like a time machine. They create a memento in physical form of a single moment--a moment frozen in time as it were--that allows you to take a look back and remember what was going on at that exact moment. But a photo booth strip actually gives you a bit more than that. In the four photos you not only get four precise moments you can look back on, but you can also piece together the story of what was going on between those four moments. The sweet innocence of The Little Monster at this time when she wasn't quite two years old makes this story very obvious and easy to put together. Unlike most people (including myself in these very photos) The Monster wasn't posing for photographs. No, she was actually experiencing something new and unknown for the very first time! And you can plainly see that experience on her little face.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

2010 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama: Part III

Okay, one more post on this event and then I'll move on, I promise...

As covered in 2010 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama and 2010 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama: Part II, I was finally able to attend this great show for the first time last year (the forth year it's been put on). This event is a must for fans of drive-ins and/or older horror movies of the type that were shown at drive-ins back in the 1960s and 1970s. This was a time when drive-ins were still plentiful and successful in America. Anyone who has a feeling of nostalgia for those times would love this tribute to those great times. In addition to featuring EIGHT movies over two nights the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama is also chock full of great trailers for tons of similar films, short subjects and classic drive-in ads and promos. All of the entertainment shown on the screen is projected from original 35mm film stock. While it would be a much easier undertaking, none of the material is projected via DVD. This is also great news for film fans and purists.

The Monster-Rama shows are put on by DVD Drive-In and held at a great active drive-in, The Riverside Drive-In in North Vandergrift, PA. The Riverside officially closes for the season after the Labor Day weekend, but for the past four years have extended their season one week specifically for this wonderful showcase of drive-in goodies. The Riverside's snack bar is open throughout the show, giving patrons a chance to eat classic drive-in food while watching classic drive-in movies! As if all this wasn't enough, Creepy Classics sets up tables and sells all kinds of DVDs, books, magazines, posters, toys and other stuff that fans of the types of movies featured in the show would be interested in.

Part II of my look back at last year's Drive-In Super Monster-Rama dealt with first night of the show, and this edition will focus on the second night. The movies that were featured during night two (Saturday September 11) were: "Frankenstein Created Woman" (1967), "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell" (1974), "Blood on Satan's Claw" (1971), and "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors" (1965). It was another great night that was somewhat dampened (literally and figuratively) by rain that started out lightly and increased just enough that you couldn't sit outside your car and were forced inside instead. Of course weather is unpredictable and the people behind the show have no control over that aspect (at least not any control that I'm aware of...). As has always been the case since drive-ins first started, we simply had to deal with the weather and not let it ruin a great night. Most of the people present seemed to roll with it. Not too many cars were seen leaving the grounds as the weather deteriorated. Because of the rain I wasn't able to get as many photos as I did on the first night (meaning that this installment will be mercifully shorter than the last one). With all that in mind, here's a look at night two:


The crowds came early the second night
We had to settle for being third in line.

Once again, the show kicked off with the National Anthem (a Riverside tradition)

Enjoy a movie? Don't mind if I do!

While enjoying a movie, why not enjoy a pickle too?

How romantic!

Chilly Dilly!

Previews of coming attractions...



...Presented by Hammer Films!

Did I mention that Frankenstein MUST be destroyed?

Yes, it's imperative--Frankenstein simply MUST be destroyed!


One of the features of the 2011 Monster-Rama!

And a bunch more trailers, including a few for some Al Adamson "classics"...





And a cartoon short from UPA...

Mr. Magoo in...


"Oh Magoo, you've done it again!"

And don't forget that we actually have some movies to watch tonight!
Our first feature is...


Which is followed by more Intermission fun

Trailer for "CRUNCH"




A couple screen shots from the final film of the night:

A look at the screen from outside

Here's an example of the rain trying unsuccessfully to dampen the mood of all the horror fans at the Riverside

And a final look back at the film stream shortly before the end of the show

Well, that (finally) concludes my look back at last year's (2010) Drive-In Super Monster-Rama show. Don't forget that the lineup for this year's fifth-annual show has already been announced. Coming September 9 & 10 are eight more great old movies and another chance to experience this great spectacle for yourself! The films featured this year will be: "Black Sabbath", "The Last Man on Earth", "Castle of Blood", "Island of the Doomed", "The Abominable Dr. Phibes", "Dr. Phibes Rises Again", "Count Yorga, Vampire" and "I, Monster".